In today’s lesson, Jesus is desperate for some personal space. He is experiencing something many of us can relate to when we get overwhelmed by the demands of our lives, and by those extra loud personalities that seem to drain us. When we are feeling overstimulated by life, do we delve deeper into the chaos? Well, truthfully, sometimes we do; and usually come to regret it later. When we are healthy though, we do the smart thing, and take a step back. We slow down, take a deep breath, and create the space we need so we might realign with our inner selves and God.
As Jesus was standing by the lake, this crowd was so hungry to hear his message of God’s love, that they were pressing in on him like a bunch of close talkers. Knowing he needed to create some space, Jesus saw two boats at the shore, walked over, and got in one of the boats. Is it his boat or his friends boat? No. Jesus just went and got in some guy’s boat. Over the years, Jason and I have made friends with a few lobster men and women back home, and let me tell you, you would be out of your mind to enter another person’s boat uninvited. Honestly, it’s a good way to find yourself seriously harmed or maimed.
Have you ever been in a situation, where something completely socially unacceptable begins to unfold, but you are too shocked by the behavior to really do anything about it? I’m pretty sure that’s how Simon Peter felt, when he saw Jesus sit down in his boat, and then ask him to let out a little ways as he began to teach the crowd. Because this tired fisherman, who had been at work all morning and had come home empty, seemed to be captured by Jesus’ message. When Jesus was done teaching, he instructed Simon Peter to set out into deeper water and let down his net. A weary, yet captivated Simon Peter tries to give Jesus the cold hard facts: We’ve been at this all night, and didn’t make a single catch, but if you want to give this a go anyways, well sure…
Simon Peter lets down the net. In the moments that follow, Simon Peter discovers the greatest catch of his life. The sheer abundance of fish required help from James and John, who worked the other boat. Still, the numerous fish nearly sunk both boats.
Simon Peter was so overwhelmed by the bounty of God’s grace, by the strangeness of Jesus, that he fell down on his knees to claim he was unworthy of such abundance. Because God’s grace is like that. The sheer abundance of God’s grace will overwhelm us, because the full extent of it is beyond our comprehension. We don’t understand how we could be good enough for this kind of abundance, whether it be the fish on Simon Peter’s boat, or God’s love for us. It may even scare us.
The good news is that each of us are God’s beloved children, in spite of the selfish things we may do or the hurtful things we may say.God’s love is here to overwhelm and transform us.
This great catch forces Simon Peter to see God’s grace in all its glory, and he feels both moved by such love, and at the same time, scared he’s not good enough. And yet, what does Jesus say to him?
“Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people” (Luke 5:10).
Don’t be scared by this good news. Instead, share it. Help others to know about such love and grace. Simon Peter was asked to start catching people, just as Jesus had caught him. It was Simon’s turn to help others hear this good news.
When they brought their fish to shore, these fisherfolk were changed, and left everything to follow Jesus. And when we say they left everything, we are talking about their homes, their jobs, their family and friends. But maybe more importantly, we are talking about what they are choosing to turn away from on a daily basis.
Instead of turning to alcohol, drugs, or gambling, they are turning to God.
Instead of turning to overeating or unhealthy food, they are turning to God.
Instead of turning to consumerism, or the acquiring of meaningless stuff that will destroy us and the planet, they are turning to God.
Instead of turning to their smartphones or social media, they are turning to God.
Instead of turning to the ceaseless amount of work or email, they are turning to God.
And we are invited to turn with them. When we leave everything to follow Jesus, we are leaving behind some of our dysfunction. We are leaving behind the unhealthy ways we have coped with our stress, or not feeling good enough, or loved. When we choose to follow Jesus, to be in relationship with Almighty God, we are recognizing that we are indeed good enough, just as we are, and in spite of the ways we may feel broken. We are worthy of such abundant grace and love. May our boats be so overwhelmed with fish, that we literally are enveloped and transformed by God’s love for us.
Which is why, when Simon Peter, James, and John returned to shore, they turned away from their old lives to become fisherfolk for people. When they were out on their boats with Jesus, they were mere fish, who were so captured and transformed by the message of God’s love, joy, hope, and healing, that they accepted a call to choose this way of love. To become fisherfolk of people.
Where are you on your journey?
How do you feel today?
Are you on the boat ready for some fishing, or are you a bit lost as you swim in the water?
There are times we are the fish. We are going about our business, and we think everything is fine. Then, something catches our attention, startling us to a new level of being awake. In those moments, we are invited to remain awake, and join Simon Peter and become fisherfolk of people. As followers of Jesus Christ, there will be times when we are the fisherfolk, and our job is to create the space, time, and environment to catch fish. We do this by building relationships, as we respond to the needs of our neighbors in pragmatic ways like providing community meals and everyday essentials, and maybe even more importantly, as we make ourselves deeply present to the people in our lives who are experiencing pain, angst, or loneliness by walking together.
We are fisherfolk when we heed Jesus’ words to not be afraid.
We are fisherfolk when we are “...quick to love and make haste to be kind…”
We are fisherfolk when we, “rest assured that God is infinitely more concerned with the hope of our future than the sins of our past.”
This is the good news that we fisherfolk are called to share, as our world is hungry for such good news.
Let us walk together as we go and fish for people. Amen.